As an Integrative and Functional dietitian I am a huge advocate for sitting down to a meal and eating real, whole foods. But life happens and often clients just don’t have the time for an actual meal. Fortunately, I have a work around for just about every curveball life throws your way.
Smoothies can be the perfect fix for the ‘I just don’t have time for that’ conundrum. They are the perfect grab and go option for hectic mornings, working lunches or last minute dinners.
Making a smoothie sounds easy in theory, but there are a lot of issues that come up when you first begin experimenting. There are plenty of recipes on the internet that may taste delicious, but are often missing key ingredients to help balance blood sugar and keep you full for hours. Additionally, they are sometimes loaded with high amounts of sugar from too much fruit or unnecessary added sweeteners. You may also struggle with finding substitutes for ingredients that you don’t like.
This ultimate smoothie guide will give you a blueprint for how to build the perfect smoothie that will keep you full, using ingredients you love.
So here it is folks, the only smoothie guide you’ll ever need to create a perfectly balanced concoction.
The Only Smoothie Guide You’ll Ever Need:
Start with a liquid base. The key to getting the right consistency in your smoothie starts with the right amount of liquid base. Using anywhere from 4-8 fluid ounces of liquid will help you master the perfect consistency. It may take some trial and error to find your personal preference.
Although, water works great for a liquid base there are so many options out there that can give your smoothie a flavor boost. Here is a short list:
- Brew your favorite herbal tea ahead of time to get both a unique flavor and additional health benefits. Any extra can be stored in the fridge for 7-10 days and used later.
- Milk alternatives can add a smooth consistency to your smoothie. Consider almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk or other nut and seed milk options.
- Kombucha or other fermented beverage
- Coconut water
- Coffee could even be a great addition if you tolerate caffeine and want to make a healthy frozen coffee drink.
Add in whole foods carbs. This is where people often get tripped up. They want to make sure their smoothie tastes good so they go heavy on fruit causing their smoothies to be waaaay to high in sugar. Carbs in your smoothie should be mostly from vegetables and some fruit. You may be thinking ‘did she just say veggies? In my smoothie? never gonna happen’. I promise that you can add in veggies and cover the taste with just a little bit of fruit.
The perfect smoothie looks something like this: about 1/2 cup of some type of fruit or starchy vegetable and unlimited non-starchy veggies. Really, the goal here is to have just enough fruit for taste and focus on getting more veggies in. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
- Fruit (frozen fruit will last longer and keep your smoothie cool, allowing you to skip ice): raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, frozen banana (about 1/3 of a whole), mango, and pineapple
- Starchy veggies: pumpkin, other winter squash, jicama, sweet potatoes, snow peas, and beets
- Non-starchy veggies (1-2 cups or more if desired): leafy greens like spinach, chard, and kale are excellent in smoothies (buy frozen greens to always have some on hand), carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes
Fill up on (healthy) fat. I cannot stress enough how important healthy fat is to creating the perfect smoothie. The addition of fat will help slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates to glucose in the blood, add an anti-inflammatory effect and create a smoothie that will keep you full for up to 4 hours. It is also going to make your smoothie creamy and delicious. I typically recommend anywhere from 1 to 3 servings of healthy fat at a meal, but with smoothies I recommend starting at 3 and adding even more if you find that you are hungry within 3 hours of eating the smoothie. Here are some of my favorite healthy fat smoothie additions:
- 1 to 2 Tbl of ground flax seed
- Coconut or MCT oil
- Coconut milk or cream
- Chia seed
- 1 to 2 Tbl of your favorite natural nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower, etc)
- Full-fat dairy (if tolerated, organic and grass-fed) or non-dairy yogurt or kefir
- Heavy cream (if tolerated, organic and grass-fed)
Pack in protein. Sometimes the easiest source of protein is a serving of high quality protein powder. You can ask your Integrative or Functional healthcare provider for a recommendation that fits your health needs. Other whole foods options include greek style yogurt or kefir. The goal is to get between 20 and 30 grams of protein in the smoothie to ensure you stay full long after the smoothie is gone. Another option, if you don’t have one of these protein sources available, is to pair your smoothie with some cooked eggs or other breakfast protein option.
Top it all off with the extras. Smoothies are a great way to hide in supplements recommended by your healthcare provider or to add an extra nutrient boost. To give your smoothie a bit of an edge try the following:
- Hide in any liquid or powder supplements. Some common ones include: liquid fish oil or vitamin D and/or powdered probiotics or L-glutamine.
- Greens powder will give you an antioxidant boost. I recommend choosing organic and non-GMO for all smoothie ingredients when possible, but for greens powder it is vital!
- Herbs like mint, parsley, cilantro and more can help provide a unique flavor and additional vitamin and mineral support.
There you have it. Just follow this basic template and have fun experimenting with combinations to find your perfect smoothie recipe! Still feel like you need more guidance? Here are some of the PIH team’s favorite smoothie combinations:
Breakfast power blend:
Liquid base: 6 fl oz of coconut water
Carbs: 1/3 cup of organic berry blend (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries), 1/3 frozen banana (freeze after peeled), 3/4 cup organic frozen spinach
Healthy Fat: 1/2 avocado, 2 Tbl natural almond butter, 1 Tbl ground flax seed, 1/4 cup canned coconut cream
Protein: 2 scoops (~24 grams of protein) of Vegan chocolate protein powder
Nutrient Boost: 1 tsp of Turmeric, dash of Himalayan salt, juice of 1/2 small lemon, 1 tsp of liquid fish oil supplement
Liquid base: 6-8 fl oz of Matcha tea (Stash makes a great Mojito Mint Matcha tea)
Carbs: 1/2 cup strawberries, 1 large handful of fresh kale, 1 lime (skin removed)
Healthy Fat: 2 Tbl natural almond butter, 1/4 cup coconut milk or 2 Tbl MCT oil, 2 Tbl pumpkin seeds
Protein: 1 scoop of Designs for health PurePaleo or PurePea (vegetarian) protein powder
Nutrient Boost: 1 tsp Maca powder, dash of Himalayan salt, 1/2-1 tsp of Dulse flakes or other sea veggie, 1 scoop of greens powder
Liquid base: 6-8 fl oz of Traditional Medicinals Everyday Detox tea
Carbs: 1/4 cup cubed beets, a handful of beet greens, a handful of arugula, 1/4 cup diced apple, 1/4 cup blackberries, 1/4 cup pineapple
Healthy Fat: 1 Tbl chia seeds, 1 Tbl ground flax seeds, 1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes or coconut milk
Protein: 1 scoop of Designs for Health VegeCleanse protein powder
Nutrient Boost: 1 scoop of greens powder, 1/2 lemon peeled, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp turmeric
Liquid base: 6-8 fl oz of fermented coconut water, fermented water (Kevita is a popular brand), or Kombucha
Carbs: 1/4 cup Jerusalem artichoke, 1/4 cup cabbage, 1 handful of fresh kale, 1/2 frozen banana, 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
Healthy Fat: 1 Tbl of coconut butter, 2 Tbl ground flax seed, 1/2 avocado
Protein: Hydrolyzed collagen protein powder
Nutrient Boost: 1 tsp of powdered probiotic blend, 1/2 tsp of fructooligosaccharides (aka FOS, prebiotic), approximately 2-4 grams of powdered L-glutamine, 1 tsp of liquid fish oil, 2000 IUs liquid Vitamin D, 1/2 clove garlic
*If any of the above recipes just isn’t quite sweet enough for you try putting in a couple drops of 100% pure stevia liquid until the taste is pleasant.
Written by: Abby Stanley, MS RDN LD
Abby is on staff at Premier Integrative Health as our Functional Nutritionist. She is also the owner and CEO of Revive Nutrition Solutions, LLC. She loves helping others improve their health and life through nutrition an advocate for eating REAL food!